The fourth and final day of Pandora’s SXSW Discovery Den was heavy with diversity and ended with one of Austin’s heaviest hitters. Four days of hard work, some sweat, some rain, a lot of BBQ and so, so much music came to it’s grand finale last night.
Here are some of the highlights…
Zella Day introduced herself telling the audience that they’re “…very badass for standing in the rain.” The packed crowd reciprocated her love and modesty with hoots and hollers. If I had to compare Day to someone it would be a younger Aimee Mann and some of her songs have a beautiful darkness that sounds very informed by Fiona Apple. Her set opened with “The Outlaw Josie Wales,” a swooning, soaring amorous pop song that compares her muse to Clint Eastwood’s iconic western anti-hero. The standout song for me was “Milk & Honey,” it had the bouyancy of sunny California indie-pop. Another standout was her closing song, “Hypnotic,” a sultry insta-hit with a hard and heavy groove. Read More →
Americana fans are troopers, they braved the hard, pouring rain. It was awesome to see a bunch of people still digging it as if the sun was out and shining. And I can understand why, every one of these acts set the stage on fire.
Here’s a bit of what happened on Day 3 of Discovery Den…
Before the rain came down, Andrew Combs set the tone in more friendly Austin weather. From the first verse of the first song, he and his band reminded me of early Whiskeytown, but more sophisticated and studied. He’s blending a lot of old school country and soul into his own tone. He sound-checked with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” from Nashville Skyline, but he didn’t play it live. Would love to hear his full take on that one. Combs’ rhythm section was solid. Read More →
We’re following Friday’s feast of Americana with a plethora of sweet Saturday rock ambrosia. Brooklyn basted Ex Cops set the tone with indie pop confectionary perfection. Imagine all the flavors of vintage Sarah Records sprinkled over a glossy, synthy foundation.
Next up, Zella Day’s beautifully bittersweet melodies intertwine with the complex flavors that can only come from a magically produced concoction of keyboard wizardry, next-level production and timeless melodies culled from a lifelong collection of vintage vinyl. Read More →
For SXSW’s Friday menu, Pandora offers hearty courses of tangy, twangy Americana – beginning with a serving of Andrew Combs’ sophisticated songs. You’ll detect hints of Ryan Adams on the surface, but the deeper flavors recall Guy Clark and Mickey Newbury.
Follow this up with a side of Israel Nash’s desert folklore. Dripping with buttery vocal inflections and timeless guitar tones, Nash cooks up the kind of Neil Young inspired love songs that would make Lucinda Williams blush. Read More →
Honoring the Fundamentals Of Soul gave us an opportunity to take you through a journey that explores the vast galaxies that comprise a thriving universe of blues, soul, hip-hop, jazz, rock and Afro-Latino music. We’ll touch on foundational star constellations and the orbiting planets of our Soul System in a new selection of stations, debuting on Pandora now, during Black History Month: http://www.pandora.com/music/fundamentals-of-soul
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Climate experts are speculating that Punxatuwney Phil may be snowed-in this Groundhog Day. And that’s just fine, really. Most of us working at Pandora’s Oakland office wouldn’t mind a little more winter (we could use the rain). While contemplating a rodent and his shadow, we tried to build a Groundhog Day mixtape. But it wasn’t so easy. Sure, we could play an endless loop of songs by The Groundhogs. But even the most ardent Tony McPhee fans need a break from obscure, British blues-rock.
So here’s what we did instead. We made a deep mixtape of songs from Bill Murray soundtracks. Why? Because Groundhog Day is synonymous with Bill Murray. Those unfamiliar with the 1993 romantic comedy by the same name need not worry. Bill Murray’s Soundtracks is loaded with songs and scores from movies spanning Bill Murray’s entire career. And thanks to film director/screenwriter Wes Anderson, this mixtape is much hipper than we thought it would be (Bill Murray was in seven of Anderson’s films thus far). And of course we’ve also peppered the mix with tunes from Ghostbusters, Lost In Translation, Caddyshack, Where The Buffalo Roam, Zombieland, St. Vincent and tons of others. So as we celebrate Groundhog Day, let’s take a moment to remember that Bill Murray once said, “I don’t want to be that guy mumbling into his drink at a bar.”
As we celebrate what would have been Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday, it’s crucial to remember four important sentences once sung by Mojo Nixon:
“Elvis is everywhere. Elvis is everything. Elvis is everybody. Elvis is still The King.”
Maybe Nixon wasn’t aware of it at the time, but the chorus of this 1987 recording can also be juxtaposed to the four main eras of Elvis.
Elvis is everywhere.
This perfectly describes young Elvis. Memphis Elvis. In 1954 Sam Phillips rolled tape at Sun Studios of Elvis recording Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right (Mama).” By blending blues, honky tonk and rockabilly; Elvis changed the game. For a while it looked like teenagers and rock ‘n’ roll might just take over the world. Suddenly this young blue-eyed, pelvis-swaying sensation was everywhere. He was omnipresent. Read More →
This last Tuesday, Pandora sent out the push notification: “Our music curators think you’ll love Hipster Holidays Radio this holiday season. Try it today!” If you’ve ever seeded or thumbed-up anything deemed cool, indie or “hip” – you received that notification. It’s really that simple.
Pandora is headquartered in a hip part of Oakland, California – which means each day, our employees walk streets considered by many to be a West Coast epicenter of hipsterdom. But this recent social conversation around the term “hipster” got us thinking more critically: what’s the history behind this word, anyway? Being the OCD music and pop-culture geeks that we are, the subject was researched! And, wouldn’t you know it, the word has a deep musical tie in.
The origin of the term “hipster” has nothing to do with boutique fixed-gear bicycles. But it pedals back to 1938 when Cab Calloway jokingly wrote The Hepster Dictionary to accompany his sheet music – it was a glossary of jive terms spoken by “hepcats” (African American jazz enthusiasts). So then “hepcat” evolved into “hipster” by the 1940s. In June of 1948, Anatole Broyard wrote a piece for Partisan Review entitled “A Portrait of the Hipster.” In it, he describes hipsters as blues and jazz informed delinquents on a quest for self-definition. Read More →
Around mid October I went costume shopping and heard Christmas carols wafting from the store’s speakers – a full two weeks before Halloween! Does anyone care about timing anymore? We do. No matter what your taste in music is, Pandora’s Curation Team and I have your Halloween soundtracks covered. Our Family Halloween station is more fun than frightening – I’d love to teach my sister’s kids how do dance “The Monster Mash.” And if Ray Parker Jr. “…ain’t afraid of no ghost,” why should they be? A couple of the Halloween parties I’ve been invited to are Walking Dead themed. That’s why I’m loading up my phone with Halloween Party – it makes me want to drink pumpkin ale and dance like the zombies in “Thriller.” Also, you don’t have to enjoy Halloween ironically to dig Hipster Halloween. It’s got everything from Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall to Dead Moon and The Black Keys. And should your inner goth be craving some darker cuts, tune into to Ghostly Grooves. Or for a more sophisticated way to induce goosebumps, click on Spooky Symphonies while reading some Edgar Allan Poe.
Of course, Halloween Metal is my favorite. While curating this station, I was getting all kinds of awesome memory flashbacks. Fittingly, one of my earliest metal memories took place on Halloween. In second grade, my best friend Dave and I convinced our parents to buy us KISS costumes. Back then you could get a plastic mask and accompanying Halloween smock in a grocery store for the price of a couple cheeseburgers. Dave wanted to be Gene Simmons and I wanted to be Ace Frehley (admittedly, part of me still wants to be Ace Frehley). But as Dave and I put on these costumes, I remember looking in the mirror and feeling kind of dumb. Because even back then I knew that the real “Space Ace” wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a plastic bib with a picture of himself that read, “Ace Frehley!” Still, that night our trick-or-treating efforts yielded tons of candy. Read More →